Items of Desire- The Work of Roy Lichtenstein

Adele Shotton-Pugh | Posted

With retro style at an all time high, the demand for wall art to match the sixties furniture remakes has soared. Andy Warhol is the obvious name to drop when looking for such work but if you want to remain one step ahead of the crowd why not bag yourself some reprints by the original Pop Art master, the man who inspired much of Warhol’s work- Roy Lichtenstein?

Roy Lichtenstein was born in New York as the son of a realtor and a housewife. Growing up with no major artistic influence, his success seems all the more amazing by the fact that his rise to artist superstardom began in the humble surroundings of a Saturday morning painting club. Next to Andy Warhol he is considered as the definitive artist of the Pop Art movement. Lichtenstein's style was defined by formal use of the simple graphic style, black outlines, and flat colours used by comic books and advertising.

This style has made his work amongst the most easily identified and accessible work of all of the modern masters. He was particularly drawn to the way cartoons could express "violent emotion and passion in a completely mechanical and removed style." Incorporating clichéd character types in his paintings like the tough man of action or the swooning, tearful woman, Lichtenstein sought to ironically remove them from their original context and placed them in the realm of fine art.

His drawings reflect how deftly and freely he could adjust the balance of forms, colour, line, and detail; these measured studies for paintings were scaled up and projected onto canvas to be enlarged and redrawn. This process led him to adopt the use of dots which made his paintings and prints look like huge mass publication products- this would quickly become his signature mark. Just as in the comics, Lichtenstein used these dots in his paintings to convey surface, tone, shading, and form; yet unlike the mechanically printed originals, Lichtenstein's dots were painted by hand on canvas with brush or stencil. Although he prepared and executed his works painstakingly like the old masters, he wanted his works of art look like machine made- even upon looking closely at his work, his brush strokes remain invisible.

Amongst his most famous pieces is his characteristically sarcastic take on the Disney characters. Though just as critically lauded as the rest of his collection, the success this work may lie somewhere other than the mind of the man himself. The story goes that he painted it for his kids who had provoked him by saying that "daddy could not paint as well as the images in the comic books". The pre-eminent Pop Artist of the modern era owes his success to a mouse and a duck- without Mickey and Donald there would be no Roy!

Other famous works to look out for include “Blam!”, “Whaam!”, “In The Car” which are all done in his trademark style and for those looking for more subtly “Still Life With Playing Cards” which is much more Cubist in style.

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